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Developing and Retaining Expatriate Employees

Companies that have branches abroad require competent expatriate employees and managers able to operate effectively in an international context. Yet, quite often, developing such professionals, as well as retaining them, can be challenging for companies, and, as a result, they face numerous problems. Namely, the primary concerns related to the development and retention of expatriate workers include the adoption of a global mindset, adjustment to local cultures, promotion opportunities, and social network disruption.

First of all, expatriate employees can experience a culture shock when visiting a new country, and they may not be able to adjust to new circumstances. All nations have specific cultural aspects that might seem unusual to foreigners. For instance, Disney in Hong Kong was forced to reconsider its “smile factory” policy because, in Chinese culture, a fake smile causes dissonance between expressions and feelings (Matusitz, 2011).

Additionally, the business must encourage expatriate employees to adopt a global mindset that involves not only cultural knowledge but also acculturation and diversity management skills (VanderPal, 2014). Thus, the company sending an expatriate employee abroad must educate the person on the appropriate behavior in a new culture and supply them with knowledge and skills on acting in international settings.

As for the retention concerns, a person who leaves their country and manages a company abroad can face a lack of promotion opportunities. Essentially, the organization that sends an employee to a foreign branch may not find an appropriate position for the person on their return home (Hom, Allen, & Griffeth, 2019). Moreover, the person working abroad can soon become disillusioned with their position due to the lack of contact with their family and friends, which can lead to their resignation. Thus, the disruption of old social networks also constitutes a major concern for companies with expatriate employees.

Companies that employ expatriate workers and managers have to create appropriate conditions for the development and retention of such people. Businesses must educate employees working abroad on various cultural aspects and promote a global mindset among them. In order to retain such employees, companies need to provide them with promotion opportunities at home and facilitate their communication with their social networks.


Hom, P., Allen, D., & Griffeth, R. (2019). Employee retention and turnover: Why employees stay or leave. Routledge.

Matusitz, J. (2011). Disney’s successful adaptation in Hong Kong: A glocalization perspective. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 28(4), 667–681. Web.

VanderPal, G. (2014). Global leadership, IQ and global quotient. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 15(5), 120–134.

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